Nepal's Deadlocked Election Threatens Political Turmoil
Nepal is set to have a hung parliament following its general election on November 20. This raises fears of instability in the Himalayan nation, which has witnessed 30 governments in as many years.
Since transitioning from a monarchy to a democracy in 1990, Nepal has frequently experienced hung parliaments leading to political instability, short-lived governments and the failure to deliver on policy.
Although the final result has yet to be released, it is already clear no political party or alliance will win a majority of seats in the 375-member House of Representatives.
The ruling center-left alliance, led by the Nepali Congress (NC), and a left-conservative alliance led by the main opposition party, CPN-UML, are Nepal's two top political forces.
However, neither is projected to win a majority of seats required to form a government.
The NC will take an estimated 90 seats, with CPN-UML taking around 80, according to polls data shared by the election commission. The Maoist Center— a former rebel force and now part of the ruling coalition— has maintained a distant third position with 32 projected seats.
Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya has said the final result would come out by Tuesday.
Smaller parties make themselves heard
Both the ruling and the opposition alliances had claimed they would secure enough votes to form a government.
However, the rise of a newly formed National Independent Party (NIP), led by a former firebrand journalist-turned-politician Rabi Lamichhane, and the pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) — dashed their hopes.
The NIP is set to secure fourth place in the seat count after campaigning on a platform of good governance and leadership change.
The RPP is projected to take fifth place, after campaigning on a conservative platform of restoring the monarchy and abolishing secularism.
Altogether, nine political parties and a few independent candidates are projected to win seats in the parliament. With the lack of a clear mandate for any party or alliance, forming a government promises to be complicated.
Anil Giri, a Kathmandu-based journalist, told DW it could take months to form a new government, as any coalition will need support from the RPP, NIP or other fringe parties.
International implications Nepal's election
Chandra Dev Bhatta, a geopolitical analyst, said the election could trigger perpetual political instability in Nepal with the rise of many new political forces having different goals and ideologies.
The analyst added that a dysfunctional government will negatively affect Nepal's position in dealing with countries like China, India and the United States.
Nepal maintains strong ties with India. Here Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is seen with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi
"The next government will face a daunting challenge to better negotiate with foreign powers to deal with tricky issues, commence new projects and check their influences," Bhatta told DW.
"A weak coalition having partners of different ideologies and priorities will have difficulty conducting consensus-based foreign policy and serving national interests," he added.
Apeksha Shah, an assistant professor of international relations at Nepal's Tribhuvan University, said Nepal's relations with China, India, and the West will depend on the outcome of coalition talks.
She said Nepal's primary interest is to maintain stable relationships with more powerful countries in order to attract support and investment.
"As a donor-dependent country, we do not have much room to maneuver in foreign policy and diplomatic fronts," she told DW.
Especially important is Nepal's relationship with neighboring India and China.
Arindam Bagchi, an Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson, said last week that New Delhi will maintain a "very close relationship with the government the people of Nepal choose."
The Indian ambassador in Kathmandu, Naveen Srivastava, met with Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist Center chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal in recent days, which some analysts said is a sign New Delhi wants the continuation of the current ruling coalition.
All the major political parties in Nepal uphold the "One China" policy — that is, that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it — and want to maintain a good neighborly relationship with Beijing.
However, the current ruling coalition irked Beijing after agreeing to a $500 million (€482 million) foreign aid grant from the Millennium Challenge Compact, a US government foreign aid agency, to build road and electricity networks.
China has openly advocated and maneuvered for unity among Nepalese left-wing parties, which have a perceived ideological affinity with Communist China, whose goals in Nepal include infrastructure investment in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Edited by: Wesley Rahn
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